Gary Mayor points to progress, crime concerns in State of the City address

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February 19, 2014 — Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson used a significant portion of her third State of the City address to talk about how she plans to target crime and improve public safety.

The mayor says Gary is “making progress every day [but] this work is hard.”

The mayor got to the point about crime. “[It is] the Achilles heel of our administration,” she says “This is unacceptable.”

At the top of the 45-minute address, the mayor announced the development of a crime task force to target the most dangerous criminals in the city. Freeman-Wilson says the new group will be a joint effort led by U.S. Marshals and the Gary Police Department.

“Any not just because we are engaged in a punitive exercise,” she says. “We want to catch them doing right and help them stay on track.”

The mayor added, despite the homicide rate, the city has seen a reduction in non-violent crimes.

The city recorded 37 homicides in 2012 — the most recent annual count available — according to officials from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.

The mayor acknowledged public safety changes after she requested Governor Pence’s help with Gary’s policing efforts last summer when Gary’s 2013 murder rate was double its 2012 incidence of homicide. In response to the Gary Technical Assistance Team report, Gary police increased the number of officers on the street, she says.

The mayor says she will also ask the Gary Common Council to consider an ordinance that will require gas stations and convenience stores that remain open after 10 p.m. to have cameras on the outside grounds of their premises.

“We have seen an alarming trend of violent crimes on the premises of late night gas stations and convenience stores” she says. “This requirement is not cost prohibitive and could provide a significant deterrent to those involved in criminal behavior and assistance to law enforcement.”

The city’s top leader also pointed to a current partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development as a way to improve quality of life for residents, especially senior citizens.

“We have been able to recover over $5 million that we would have otherwise have lost that will allow us to invest in public housing by improving common areas at senior high rises, installing cameras and other security equipment, updating playground equipment, and taking other measures to improve the standard of living,” she says.

The mayor called positive efforts in Gary a “team effort” and praised the city’s youth services bureau for working with area youth to remove graffiti from buildings and their efforts to distribute socks to homeless.

“The truth of the matter is that there are some days that this job literally brings me to my knees,” Freeman-Wilson says. “But that is where my faith comes in. The faith that I have been anointed to lead this city in such a time as this.”

By Hilary Powell

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